Namibia - the lion, the jackal, and the rental car


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Africa » Namibia » Sossusvlei
April 26th 2010
Published: April 26th 2010
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We woke up early, said our goodbyes, and went to pick up the worlds smallest rental car. After that, we made a quick stop at Waterfront to pick up an iPod transmitter which has ended up being an excellent investment. After that we headed up North. I was a little rusty driving at first as I haven't had to drive on the other side of the road for 9 years, but it came back quickly. Going though South Africa was fairly uneventful until we hit the border. We had to get out of the car, go to 3 different huts on the South Africa side, and then to one office on the Namibia side after crossing the river. We had to pay 200 Namibian Dollars to enter the country, which of course we didn't have. They let us enter the country, go up the road to the next ATM machine, get the currency, then go back to the border to pay our fee to enter the country....

By this time the sun was almost down. We watched an amazing sunset from the road as we entered this new foreign place. The sky was amazingly clear and started out white across
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this is the night before we went into sossusvlei
the horizon before it slowly went to a glowing blue and then black above us. It was time to find a place to crash for the night. We decided on a place called Ai-Ais as it was in my Lonely Planet travel book, but it was a little ways off the highway. For the most part, only the main highways (there are 2 of them) in Namibia are paved, the rest are gravel. So here we were, looking for this resort driving on a dirt road in the middle of the night in pitch black with nothing but a crescent moon and a million stars to guide us. Eventually we made it to our destination with our crappy Hertz rental car road map. When we arrived, we realized that this resort we were trying to stay at had gotten a major facelift since our travel book was published, so it was more than we expected. The manager felt sorry for us, luckily, and gave us a 25% discount. This was a really nice resort with with an indoor hot springs. It also came with free breakfast the next morning so I figured I would get my moneys worth and chilled
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You can barely see me in this picture.
out in the hot springs that night and ate as much as I could the next morning.

I was excited the when we woke up, we were on the way to Sossusvlei. It is an area famous for its sand dunes in the Namib-Naukluft Park. It was gravel the whole way. This little rental car of ours had no business on these roads. We drove all day and barely made it to our camp site at dusk. We parked the car under a tree and crashed in it as we had no tent. That night I heard a lot of strange animal noises around the camp site. One in particular sounded like two cats fighting. I hadn't realized it yet, but nights camping in Africa are never quiet by any means.

The next morning we got up and drove to the internal gate to the park. They were supposed to open at 0515. I pulled up around 0510 and realized they were still closed. There was a sign stating when the park opens, and also stated that Namibia had started daylight savings time a couple of weeks earlier. Oops, my bad. We had arrived at 0410. I just
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the sun just poked out of the sand dune
turned the car off and passed out till it was time to go. Entering the park was amazing. At first it was pitch black, then slowly the sun creeped up behind me. The flat ground around me gradually started to turn white as orange hills starting to take shape off in the distance. By the time I had driven 65 kilometers, I had reached as far as I could on 2W drive. We watched as the sun came up and reflect its bright lights off of the dunes surrounding us. We then payed a fee and jumped on a jeep and asked to be driven to the Dead Vlei. When we arrived near the destination, the driver pointed off in the distance and told us to hike due south over two sand dunes. We took off and when we reached the Dead Vlei I was immediately in awe. Surrounded by massive orange sand dunes was this huge flat plane of white clay going out in the distance for at least a mile or two. I stopped for a second and looked around to take it all in. Never in my wildest dreams could I have ever thought up a landscape such as this. We walked down and took some pictures. There were a few dead trees, almost petrified, peeking out of the flat, white clay. The contrast of the dark trees to the white clay to the bright orange sand dunes to the bright, clear, blue sky was mind boggling. This area was truly a photographers playground. We hiked around, climbed up another sand dune, jumped down it, then headed back to the jeep to take us back to the car.

We took off to head towards Etosha National Park, where we were planning on doing our own safari. On the way, we decided to take a short cut. Before the shortcut we ran across about 10 monkeys that almost cut us off. There was a stretch of road that we were told not to take, as it was a pass, and unsuitable for our crappy little car. I had found a route on the map which would make a turn off before the pass. The map was wrong. We hit some really bad roads, but somehow made it through. Jeff was the lucky driver for this stretch of road. After we cleared the pass, we continued to drive along until I heard a loud bang. I looked at Jeff, and he said, 'its fine.' Then I said 'no, seriously man, stop the car, I think the tire blew up.' Sure enough.... We put the spare on, and knew that the best chance to get a replacement was the capital, Windhoek. It was about 120 kilometers away. That slowed the trip down. We arrived at the capital at sunset (this was becoming a regular arrival time for us) and decided to spend two nights at a hostle and take a full day to fix the tire, clean the car, and relax. The car was completely trashed.

Windhoek is an immaculately clean city, as is this whole country. I would describe this country as 'rapidly developing,' but this city, as is the northern half of the country, is very modern. This country is only 20 years old, and has a heavy German influence. We had dinner the first night in a beer garden, and I could have sworn that I was somewhere in Germany.. German is the 3rd language of this country, after English and Africaans. Apparently there is still a lot of racial tension in South Africa, but not so much in Cape Town, which is the only city I've really spent time in in South Africa so far. In Namibia, however, there is absolutely no racial tension whatsoever. This really is the country of the future for Africa and one to lead as an example. I think my travel book is out of date already, being only 2 years old, as this country is developing so fast and so many things are changing very rapidly. All of the prices so far here have been significantly higher and accommodations have been nicer than how they are described in the book.

After we took care of everything, spent a couple of nights at The Cardboard Box hostle, made a few new and interesting friends, we set off for Etosha National Park in search of some wildlife. While we were in Windhoek, we realized that we have been spending way too much money so far, and decided to buy a tent and start camping to save money so that we are able (hopefully) to see everything we want to see on this trip and extend it as long as possible. We stopped in Otjiwarongo on the way to pick
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this tree made it somehow
up supplies. The grocery store there was very modern, even in US standards. We entered the park from the East and got a camp site at Namutoni. This is one of three camp sites in the park, each of which are build around old German forts. After we set up camp, we decided to get a mini safari in. We hadn't much time as the sun was going to go down fairly soon and they close the gates at sunset so animals cannot get into the camp site.

We took off down the road. The very first turn after we left the campsite, I looked ahead and was speechless for a second. Jeff was busy looking at a few Springbok on the left side of the car, and I said, 'look!' We both fell silent. My eyes went wide and my mouth dropped. About 8 Giraffe walked right in front of the car crossing the road. There were a few Zebra in the background. This was the first time I had ever seen these animals in the wild. A surge of emotion hit me very rapidly. It finally hit me that we were in Africa, we are really doing
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I got richie tenenbaum here trying to change the tire.
this, this is awesome. I looked at Jeff, and he said, 'man, this is trippy.' He then said, 'this is why we are here.' He was right. It is an amazing feeling of excitement running across wild animals like this in their natural habitat for the very first time. It is a moment that I will never forget. We drove on and saw many more Giraffe and Zebra, as well as wildebeest and a Jackal.

That night we cooked spaghetti at our campsite with our little burner. This stupid Jackal was hanging around our campsite trying to get in his fix. I kept on having to chase him away. That night I woke up around 3 am and watched the silhouette of his shadow run across my tent. That little bastard wouldn't give up. I've decided to declare war on the Jackal's. That evening I heard a lot of interesting animal noises throughout the night. I have no idea what they were.

The next morning we got up early and took off, hoping to see more wildlife. We were really hoping for a Lion and an Elephant. We saw some more of the same, including warthogs, and a wide variety of birds. I was cruising along for a while when suddenly, Jeff said, 'oh my god.' I looked over and there was a cheetah just chilling next to the road. I stopped suddenly, shifted to reverse, and went back towards him. Of course during this over excitement, he got spooked and slowly took off, so we weren't able to get a picture of him. Its too bad, but it was really cool to see one. I haven't spoken with anyone at this park that has seen one so far. It seems like everyone has seen a pack of Lions but us. We continued on, saw some more wildlife, and made it to our next camp site called Okaukuejo. After we checked in, we went to the pool to cool off. We then took off for Leeubron, the spot that everyone has been seeing this pride of Lions at. Our luck had run out for the day as we saw nothing. Before retiring for the night, we walked to a waterhole next to the camp with flood lights shining on it and watched a Rhino drinking some water as a about 10 Zebra walked passed him into the darkness.

That night we cooked at the campsite, and this time some kind of crazy mouse with a really long tail appeared suddenly out of the tree and tried to grab our food. We yelled at it and it climbed back up into the tree. I have decided that the tree mouse is scheming with the Jackal to get my food. I saw another Jackal after that also staring my dinner down, and I swear it smiled at me. Its on, you little bastard, its on.

We got up the next morning and waited for a couple hours for the Lions with no luck again. I guess we will have to wait till next time. After that, we started the long trek back to Cape Town, spending another night in Windhoek at the same hostle, and one night in Springbok in some funky barn like dormatory. The whole trip ended up being almost 5000 km long.

We are going to start heading East to Plettenburg Bay next to use a timeshare for a week (Thanks Pam!) and will probably hop around to different beach towns for a while. The month of May is going to be a beach bum month. I'm going to try to get a job and/or not spend money and chill for a while until it gets closer to the World Cup time. I will probably do a few blogs here and there, if there is anything interesting happening. I will also use this free time to catch up on my emails and skype calls. Sorry if its taking long for me to get back to a few of you, but internet costs money everywhere, and its not always readily available. I know I didn't get everyone's email for this blog. Feel free to forward these updates to whoever you want. Anyone can go on this web site and subscribe to get email updates when I post something. Thanks for reading. It's great to be trekking again. It makes me feel alive.


Additional photos below
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Hurt ZebraHurt Zebra
Hurt Zebra

I think he broke his ankle
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camp site

first night in etosha national park
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determination

some guy at our hostle in windhoek rode this bike there from cape town, thats a 16 hour drive, he was heading for victoria falls next.


26th April 2010

Wow, your photos were amazing and I really enjoyed your post! The zebra with the hurt ankle made me sad, the but giraffe photo was so incredible, it made me feel a little better! I haven't been to the Southern parts of Africa yet, but I can't wait to get there. My blog is looking for travel photos, reviews, etc. If you have the time, check it out at dirty-hippies.blogspot.com, or email me at dirtyhippiesblog@gmail.com. Continued fun on your travels! Heather :)
26th April 2010

landlady
Did you meet our landlady in Munich. She was born and raised in Namibia. They have some big spread that her daughter is running and high on social scale, at least high enough Mandela has been there. Miss those sundowners!
27th April 2010

Looks amazing! Thanks for sharing!! Have fun!!
28th April 2010

wowzers
I'm glad to hear you are feeling very alive and well. Enjoy the beach bumming in the time share. It sounds like a nice contrast to camping and hostels. Probably lots of good cousin bonding going on too. Especially if you share a tent together...just kidding. Thank you for the great entries you've sent thus far. There's been a few times when I have to remind myself that you aren't here if I called you to do something. I'm adjusting to life of the farm. Radishes, lettuce and peas are up in the garden. Happy trails to you my friend. Love Lydia
24th May 2010

Namibia Photos
These desert pics are darn good Justin! I can't wait to see all of 'em when you're back home. You've definitely got some frame worthy shots - bravo!
24th May 2010

Namibia Photos
These desert pics are darn good Justin! I can't wait to see all of 'em when you're back home. You've definitely got some frame worthy shots - bravo!
14th May 2012

desert pics are awesome, wish to be there. Jeep Rental

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